I’m too young to have driven the original Audi TT, but I am old enough to recall the hubbub around its launch. I remember my friends gleefully pointing out the first of the new roadsters we saw parked in our Brooklyn neighborhood. My friend Zane was obsessed with them. He used to walk around snapping pictures with his Polaroid iZone camera, even buying 1:18 scale models of the fashion icon. The sophomore act is always a tough follow-up, and the second-gen car just didn’t have the same effect or make the same impression as the first. The new 2016 Audi TT Coupe and Roadster change all of that, resetting the TT to become the style icon it once was and the sports car it was destined to be.
Previous Audi TTs were best described as “sporty,” but the new third-generation car is without a doubt a full-fledged sports car, riding on a version of Volkswagen’s MQB platform (think Golf GTI but shorter), rocking R8-inspired styling, and packing a set of engines sure to get hearts stirring. Base TT Coupes and Roadsters, like the ones Audi brought to Oregon wine country for us to sample, are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged I-4 churning out 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. All North American market TTs sport a six-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive, the latter of which is capable of routing 100 percent of the power to either axle. The TT also includes a new drive mode selector system with four modes—Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Custom—and it’s available with a magnetic, electronically adjustable suspension.
All of the above combines to make a surprisingly exciting driving experience, especially compared with the TTs that preceded it. Like many good sports cars, the magic starts under the hood. The 2.0-liter turbo-four is a fine match for the TT; it gets the Audi up and moving quickly with no drama and little lag. As experience would suggest, VW‘s six-speed dual-clutch automatic pairs well with the four-banger, banging off gearshifts with alacrity and precision.
Adjusting the TT’s drive mode via the drive select system only makes things better. Comfort mode softens up steering and throttle response from the default Auto; Dynamic firms up the steering, increases throttle response, makes more aggressive shifts, and most important, dictates a rearward bias for the all-wheel-drive system. The difference in drive modes is certainly noticeable. Although it’s no slouch in Auto mode, in Dynamic the TT really wakes up, hunkering back on its haunches and rocketing forward, hitting 60 mph in an estimated 5.3 seconds (Coupe) and 5.6 seconds (Roadster). Ease off the throttle, and the TT will do 23/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined, according to the EPA. In Dynamic, the TT’s exhaust happily burps on upshifts, an effect best enjoyed from behind the wheel of the Roadster with the top dropped. The gearbox also does a pretty good job of remaining in the proper gear during aggressive driving, though there was one particularly twisty section of road on our drive route where I wound up reverting to the wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The TT’s handling is even better than its engine and transmission. Steering is the TT Coupe and Roadster’s best attribute—it’s tight and dynamic, and offers up plenty of driver feedback. Short of the R8, this is one of the best-steering Audis I’ve driven in a long time. The chassis and suspension are particularly good, too. The TT’s base suspension is well-dampened and very forgiving. You’ll reach the limits of the TT’s optional 19-inch-wheel and summer-tire package long before you reach the limits of its chassis or suspension. Audi even offers up the TTS’ magnetic suspension as an option on the TT, but truth be told, I can’t think of one instance during my drive when I thought I needed it.
And speaking of chassis, this one is practically begging for more power. The TT is light and nimble, and like any good sports car, it pushes the driver to drive faster as you seek to find its limits. The TT easily becomes one with the driver and is tremendously confidence-inspiring. I can’t wait to get my hands on the 292-hp TTS or the not-confirmed-but-totally-coming 400-ish-horsepower TT RS.
As for the rest of the package, the Audi TT gets high marks there, too. The interior of the TT is even prettier than the new sheetmetal. From the airplane-wing-inspired dashboard with its jet turbine-HVAC outlets to the wonderfully textured trim on the center console, you can tell that Audi really sweat the small stuff with the TT. Personally, I love those new jet air vents. It’s an innovative way to clean up clutter from the center stack by locating the controls with the device they’re controlling. The Virtual Cockpit, which replaces a traditional instrument cluster with a high-resolution 12.3-inch screen, is fantastic, as well. Although it could well turn many off of the TT, it was another of my favorite features. The software behind it was quick, the steering-wheel-mounted MMI controls intuitive, and it looked great. I found it especially useful to have the Google Earth screen showing and the rev counter and speedo minimized on back roads I was unfamiliar with. It allowed me to see what was coming up before I reached it and therefore drive faster. Though passengers don’t really have much to look at, the screen has an exceptional viewing angle and they can easily see it. The screen doesn’t get washed out in direct sunlight, either.
Features aside, the TT’s cabin is a nice place to be, so long as you’re sitting up front. The back seats, which the Roadster does away with in favor of its folding top, are best for emergency use only. Anyone more than 5 feet tall will be incredibly uncomfortable in back unless they pop open the rear hatch and ride with their head sticking out, which we wouldn’t recommend for obvious reasons. TT Coupe owners will probably get more use of the back seat by folding it flat and taking advantage of the 12.0 cubic feet of cargo space offered. TT Roadster buyers will have to make do with 7.5 cubic feet of space, but they benefit from a fast-acting, power-operated soft top that raises or stows in less than 10 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph.
The 2016 Audi TT Coupe and Roadster, in addition to the 2016 TTS, ought to hit dealers around the time you read this. The TT will be priced underneath its BMW Z4, Porsche Boxster/Cayman, and Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class rivals, with TT Coupes starting at $43,825 USD and TT Roadsters starting at $47,325 USD. With the 2016 TT now returning to its fashion icon roots while offering up performance to match its sports car styling, now might be time for the latest generation of budding car enthusiasts—and Audi’s rivals—to take notice of the new TT.